“Your talent is a seed; cultivate it, and in no time, you will harvest successMatshona Dhliwayo, Zimbabwean philosopher

When you study abroad in the US, you will notice it can be quite expensive to pay tuition fees, accommodation, and other living expenses. As an international student, you have to show evidence of how you will cover your tuition fees and living expenses as part of your visa application. So you need to be able to prove that you have the financial resources to cover your tuition and living expenses before being granted a visa. 

However, when you have successfully started your study abroad degree in countries like the United States, Canada, or the UK, you can take up a part-time job while studying and this will cover some of your day-to-day expenses.  From my own experience, I was allowed to work on campus because I went abroad on an F-1 student visa. This part-time job helped me fund my leisure and travel expenses.

During term time, you can only work for a maximum of 20 hours per week. During the holidays, like in the summer, international students can work full-time but you may still be limited to working on-campus if you have an F1 visa. 

In this article, I will take you through some of the typical jobs for international students studying abroad in the USA. Regardless of the type of job you want, you will soon find that the Career Services department on campus will be your best friend! The staff there will help you in your job search and they also run regular workshops on how to write a cover letter or a CV, interview techniques, etc.

It may not be easy to find a job, particularly in the current era of COVID, but by finding employment you will have many benefits beyond some extra dollars in your pocket – you will meet new people, gain valuable experience and learn new skills! And, if you are not a native English speaker, it’s also a great way to develop and improve your English language proficiency!

Working on-Campus

There are many different types of work on campus for international students. There are job opportunities at the front desk, library, cafeteria, student center, residence assistants, and more. If you are strong academically, you may even be able to gain on-campus work tutoring students (even American ones!) who need extra support in your chosen major. The positions are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. After submitting my resume to the relevant university body, I was given the position of Library Attendant.

When I  first arrived in the US for my Master’s course, I enquired about working part-time. And I was told I could only work at the university. But, I wasn’t the only student working on campus. 

My job was to maintain records, locate books and other materials, and direct other students to library sections with the books or materials they had come to check out. These were some of my duties, and I enjoyed interacting with other students, who later became my new friends.

Are you an international student looking to work part-time at the university? Start by talking with your DSO (designated school official), who will provide you with a list of available jobs fitting your academic standings.

Here are 10 of the most common on-campus jobs.

  • Library Attendant
  • Research Assistant
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Barista (within university’s cafeteria)
  • Lifeguard
  • Facilities Assistant
  • Campus Tour Guide
  • Campus Ambassador
  • Resident Assistant
  • Tutor

Working Off-Campus

International students are limited in the types of jobs they may seek off-campus and it is also important to note that they must have the approval of their university. In most cases, students taking jobs related to their field of study such as internships or Co-Op will be allowed to go and work off-campus.

Some of the available jobs included under this for international students are:

  • Co-Op – this is paid placement/internship that is an integral part of your degree program. Sometimes it may be automatically included within your course, sometimes you may need to apply for it (and places may be limited and awarded on merit). It will add 1-2 semesters to the length of your Bachelor’s degree, but it will be valuable work experience related to your field of study and you will be paid! 
  • Paid or unpaid internships – there will be opportunities to seek internships, especially during the summer vacation, that are related to your course of study.
  • OPT (Optional Practical Training) – You can apply for this as post-study employment related to your field of study. The duration is normally up to 12 months, though Science/ Mathematics/Technology Engineering (STEM) graduates may extend their OPT for a further 24-months (36 months in total). Once again, this work is paid!

It is important to understand that your chances of being able to maximise the benefits of OPT will be increased by gaining work experience during your studied. Internships and/or Co-Op can therefore be excellent stepping stones to a successful OPT.

Online/Freelance Jobs

If you want to feel independent, and you won’t be answering to anyone, I would urge you to choose my path, working online as an Article Writer. There are so many opportunities for international students these days to offer products and services online and to get paid for it.

All you need is a laptop, WIFI or data, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Just search online or interact with other international students, and you will learn about some online jobs you can work on and get paid in dollars.


As an international student, be aware that there are limits to the type and hours of work that you can engage in, but that shouldn’t stop you from making some dollars to help meet your daily expenses. The job hunt may not be easy but it will be worthwhile in the long run. You can work on campus for a limited number of hours per week or work for yourself through online jobs such as Article Writing, Transcription, Video and Animation Editing, and Admin Support.